Bengaluru residents file petition against reopening of wet waste processing plants

The pollution board has given the BBMP a week to reopen the plants, but an environmentalist group has filed a petition with the HC to oppose this.
Man picking up garbage
Man picking up garbage

Three months after making waste segregation at source mandatory in 38 wards across Bengaluru, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is struggling on the waste management front. The three of seven wet waste processing plants have been shut. Two (located in Subbarayanapalya off Mysuru Road and Seegehalli in KR Puram) are shut due to resistance from local residents, and one (located in Lingadheeranahalli) is shut on the direction of the National Green Tribunal. However, now, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has issued a notice to the BBMP demanding to know why the plants, despite their approval, are not functional. The board has given the BBMP a week to re-open the plants.

The Karnataka government and the local representatives of said areas have been striving to get the residents to cooperate and open the plants for months now. The government is offering additional funds to improve the technology at the waste management plants, in exchange for the people’s cooperation. “The plants have to be up and running and we, the elected leaders and other authorities, have to ensure that we keep the plant running. Our responsibility is to work for the people. We have to work ensuring that the processing doesn’t inconvenience the people,” said Kengeri ward corporator V V Satyanarayana.

Residents’ objections

Leo Saldhana, an environmentalist based in Bengaluru, along with the Environment Support Group and others, has filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court, opposing the re-opening of the wet waste treatment plants.

“The residents of downstream villages like Mavallipura have suffered grievous impacts—loss of livelihoods, lives and health issues—because of the negligence from the BBMP and continue to do so. They also have suffered property damage,” read the petition.

A survey conducted by Dr Kashinath Dixit, upon request of the Environment Support Group, found an alarming increase in the occurrences of cancer, especially among youth, in the localities where the waste processing units are located. Many youths were even diagnosed with renal failure.

Those residing near the wet waste processing plants have also complained of the stench.

The solutions offered

The petition further, read, “The city demands a just, effective, and sustainable solution which is in conformity of the applicable laws. Many pragmatic solutions have been brought on-record and been approved.”

The petitioners were part of the advisory committee formed in 2019, to draw a sustainable solid waste management plan to resolve issues regarding waste management.

They agreed that the decentralization of waste management, along with segregation of waste at source is a pivotal step at resolving the problem of waste management. The committee suggested segregating waste at source, setting up of wet and dry waste processing centres in each ward of the city, and having a solid waste management plan.

The “legacy” waste that has been collecting for some years in the landfills, attracts a host of health issues. For this reason, it was recommended that the BBMP do biomining (extract metals of economic interest from rock ore and mine waste, or clean sites polluted by metal waste) and bioremediation (use deliberately introduced microorganisms to break down pollutants). Subsequently, this would lead to the scientific capping of the landfill at Bellahalli.

Apart from the aforementioned solutions, it was suggested that Pourakarmikas be categorised as an organised sector, and that safety gear be mandatorily distributed to sanitation workers. The committee also emphasized the importance of awareness campaigns which would assist in the waste management crisis.

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